Ratchman? Not Phil Mickelson or Vijay Singh or some other golfer? Well, no. None of those guys played against Woods in his youth, which forms about half of the "Legacy Challenge" in which you recreate significant moments from more than just his professional career. They needed a foe in Woods' youth tournaments, and Scott Ratchman represents all of them, I was told.
"Tiger mentioned in his interview with us that he was always one of the smallest kids competing against older competition on the weekends," said Christian Brandt, a member of the development team. "Tiger would always beat his competitors with his putting and short game skills, but would always get outdrove by the bigger/stronger kids. So we modelled Scott Ratchman after a "big kids" type character."
A week before the game released, I was playing the game for review and lost to Ratchman in our first duel. I vowed to kill that little bastard. On the off chance he was real — a childhood friend of Tiger's? who knows — I Googled "Scott Ratchman" (in quotes). I swear to you, only one result came up, a census listing from the 1890s, I think.
Now, you Google the name, and you get all sorts of invective thrown the way of Ratchman, a pasty-faced redhead with a perpetually severe expression. He does outdrive Woods, but has difficulty staying on the fairway and will miss a lot of putts.
But in match play, you have to go after him, because he'll still play close to par, and the challenge of making birdie will be limited by young Tiger's lack of power. I think I got into a four-hole sudden death playoff with Ratchman on our first encounter. His resilience, I think, is what pisses people off.
And, well, his looks.
"My arch nemesis this week is Scott Ratchman and his stupid ginger Xbox golf skills," tweeted "Zaco" on April 3, a week after the game released.
This is deliberate, said Scott Gilbert. "I modelled Scott Ratchman, first thinking of a Bizarro Tiger," he told me, "then started to joke that he should be Scut Farkus," the redheaded, yellow-eyed, coonskin-capped junkyard bully from the cult flick A Christmas Story.
"Scott Ratchman had a similar sounding name, so it still tied in nicely to the character that inspired him," Gilbert said. And where did that name come from? Well, the guy who modelled him, and his bride-to-be. Ratchman takes Gilbert's first name, and Gilbert's fiancé supplies the second. Brandt said the two became engaged right around the time the character was being developed, so, why not name him for them both?
I dunno, maybe because in addition to giving up her maiden name, she's now giving it to a despised video game character. Sheesh. I hope Gilbert went to Jared.
Here's something I did not know, however: There are two Scott Ratchmans. There's the youth Ratchman everyone knows and hates. But at some point — and I drove myself crazy trying to get to it over the past three days — you unlock an older Ratchman, whom Gilbert says was modelled on Val Kilmer's "Iceman" from Top Gun.
"It seemed to fit the time period he would be used for and I like to imagine a similar cockiness as he tries to out manoeuvre Tiger's 'maverick' up to the pros," Gilbert said, "ultimately ceding the title of Top Young Golfer to Tiger in an inspiring story end moment."
Sure, that works.
"I also tried to give the glasses [that older Ratchman wears] a bit of a yellow reflection in keeping with 'yellow eyes' of Farkus," he added.
I asked the guys to make up a fake future for Ratchman. I offered that Ratchman actually did overcome his childhood humiliations to make the PGA Tour for one short season, with his best finish being 16th at the 1996 Greater Greensboro Open. Then he flamed out in Q school and was never heard from again.
Brandt wouldn't even give him that.
"I would think Ratchman to be one of the really good golfers on a small college team," Brandt said, "but when matched up against a Division I school he gets crushed. So, he's a guy that's always bragging that he is so great at golf, but never actually played against tough competition until Tiger came around."
"I also like to think he would end up as a course pro suffering from a horrible case of the yips brought on by his losses to Tiger," Brandt said, "He probably finds anyone he can at the bar, so he can tell them tales of his 'epic battles' with Tiger."